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BMW evolves electric car with new concept (pictures)

At the 2012 Los Angeles Auto Show, BMW showed off a coupe version of the i3 electric car it had previously shown. The i3 will be an entirely new, dedicated electric car on sale next year.

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Wayne Cunningham
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1 of 9 Wayne Cunningham/CNET
BMW's i3, a new, dedicated electric car concept, made the rounds of auto shows last year. To keep the momentum going ahead of the production launch, BMW rolled out a coupe version at the 2012 Los Angeles Auto Show. BMW says this concept represents 80 percent of what we will see in the production version.
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BMW's i project builds electric cars from a clean sheet design instead of adapting existing models. As such, BMW built the i3 on a platform designed specifically for an electric car. It uses an aluminum chassis with integrated power train components, and what BMW calls a Life cell as the passenger compartment. On the i3, the Life cell is made of carbon fiber.
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The i3 Coupe concept does not look much different than the original i3 concept in overall shape. However, the i3 Coupe only has two doors, where the original concept had four. BMW says the actual production car, coming out next year, will have four doors. The original concept also had transparent doors, but the Coupe concept's solid doors represent the production model better.
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The i3 Coupe concept, and the production car, will be rear-wheel drive. BMW positioned the drive motor, which makes 170 horsepower and 182 pound-feet of torque, at the rear of the chassis. The lithium ion battery packs, made up of individual cells similar to those found in laptops, integrate with the chassis floor. BMW is aiming for about 100 miles of range with the i3 production car, and expects it to take 4 to 5 hours to charge from a 240-volt source.
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The beltline dips at the second row seats, creating a large side window. BMW says this increased visibility will let children, who are more likely to be in the rear seats, have an easy time seeing outside.
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The i3 Coupe concept on display had cloth seats instead of leather, a choice which may play better to the environmentally conscious crowd. Despite the cloth coverings, the i3 Coupe concept showcases a simple, premium interior, with what looks like a bamboo trim piece over part of the dashboard.
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The drive controller, a stalk behind the steering wheel, holds the start button as well as Park, Drive, Neutral, and Reverse modes. The power steering is, of course, electrically boosted.
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BMW fits two displays onto the dashboard, one dedicated to the driver for speed and power usage displays and the other showing traditional infotainment functions. Both displays are likely to make it to the production car, according to BMW. The i3 will also have a telematics system, letting the driver use an app to remotely set charging and warm-up times.
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Next to BMW's standard iDrive controller sits a switch for different drive modes, also similar to that found in current BMW cars. This one shows EcoPro+ and Comfort modes. BMW says it wants its i cars to exhibit the dynamic performance for which the company has become known, so we would also expect a Sport mode.

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